Community urges Amtrak to return services

Feb 27, 2012

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited passenger train hasn’t been on North Florida rails since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Now, as Tom Flanigan reports, there’s a growing effort to get that train back on track.

It’s been nearly seven years since this sound was heard at Tallahassee’s Amtrak station…
  
Katrina severely damaged the C-S-X tracks that carried the Sunset Limited, along with freight traffic, in and around New Orleans.  The tracks have since been fixed, but today the Sunset Limited doesn’t get any further east than the Crescent City.  On Monday, a large group of rail fans in Florida’s Capital City rallied to get their train back.   School children formed a human train and sang…
 
National Association of Railroad Passengers Chair Bob Stewart told the nearly seventy people that restoring the Florida leg of the Sunset Limited would not be a losing proposition for Amtrak.

“Even with their limited system in the United States with limited funds over the last 40 years of their existence, their trains are running full in the United States.  So if somebody says to you, ‘Nobody rides the trains,’ that’s a bunch of baloney.”

At one time, Stewart said, nearly forty percent of the Sunset Limited’s passengers and revenue came from its Florida operation.   Tallahassee City Commissioner Nancy Miller said even the location of the station makes train service a desirable part of the local transportation mix.

“A person can ride the train here, walk less than a block to their hotel, go to their school….”

Jim Catrone, mayor of the City of Madison said his community and sixteen other local governments along the line wanted passenger service restored.

“Cities from Pensacola to Tallahassee adopted resolutions supporting restoration.”

But supporters say it will take more than resolutions to convince state and federal officials to get on board.  Leon County Commission Chair Akin Akinyemi is headed to Washington next week.  He hopes to bring hundreds – even thousands – of e-mails and written letters with him when he meets with Amtrak and members of Florida’s congressional delegation.

“The passenger train service has been silent for way too long and with your help, we need to restore this service.”